History of modern Macedonia (Greece)

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This article is about the modern history of the Greek region of Macedonia; for the history of the larger geographical region, see Macedonia (region)#History.
Macedonia's location in Greece

In the 19th century, the national revival in the Balkans began; national and religious antagonism flared, and conflict was heightened by the Ottoman policy of playing one group against the other. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Empire lost control over the major sections of Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria, each of which claimed Macedonia on historical or ethnical grounds.

In the Treaty of San Stefano (1878), which terminated the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, Bulgaria was awarded the lion's share of Macedonia. However, the settlement was nullified by the European powers in the same year (see Congress of Berlin), and Macedonia was left under direct Ottoman control.

After the Greco-Turkish war of 1897, which proved a disaster for Greece, Bulgarian nationalism started strengthening in Macedonia. Thus it came about that on the feastday (20 July) of the Prophet Elijah in 1903 there was a Macedonian uprising, known as the Ilinden Uprising, which the Ottoman army soon suppressed.

Greek Struggle for Macedonia[edit]

The rising, however, made plain the danger that Macedonia might be lost for ever, which stimulated a general mobilisation on the part of the Greeks. So it came about, in 1904, that the armed Greek Struggle for Macedonia began, lasting until 1908. During this period, units made up of volunteers from the free Greek state, from Crete and from other areas poured into region of Macedonia in solidarity with the local Makedonomáchoi (Greek: Μακεδονομάχοι, "Macedonian fighters"). Together, they confronted the Bulgarian forces in an attempt to assert hegemony over the central and southern parts of Macedonia.

Balkan Wars[edit]

Macedonia's division in 1913
Boundaries on the Balkans after the First and the Second Balkan War (1912-1913)

The Balkan Wars (First and Second), of 1912-13 put an end to five centuries of Ottoman domination in Macedonia.

First Balkan War[edit]

The antagonisms between the Christian states (Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria) still persisted, and after the successful conclusion of the First Balkan War, they resurfaced, especially over the partition of Macedonia. In Treaty of London, 1913 the allies (see:Balkan League) disagree about the division of Macedonia.

Second Balkan War[edit]

Greece and Serbia turned against Bulgaria in the Second Balkan War, and the Treaty of Bucharest (1913) left Bulgaria only a small share of Macedonia, the rest of which was divided roughly along the present lines.

In 1913 following the Treaty of Bucharest The region was divided among Greece that took Greek Macedonia (composed from the Vilayets of Salonica and Manastir), Serbia that took Vardar Macedonia (today Republic of Macedonia) and the areas of Ottoman Kosovo that were part of the Macedonian region today South Kosovo. Bulgaria took what is now Blagoevgrad Province from the Salonica Vilayet. This was followed by massive population movements. Thousands Macedonian Bulgarians fled to Bulgaria.

World War I and National Schism[edit]

Fighting along the Greek border in Macedonia, 1916

Venizelos was in support of the Allies and wanted Greece to join the war on their side, while the pro-German King wanted Greece to remain neutral, which would favor the plans of the Central Powers. The disagreement had wider implications, since it would also affect the character and role of the king in the state. The unconstitutional dismissal of Venizelos by the King resulted in a deep personal rift between the two and in subsequent events their followers divided into two radically opposed political camps affecting the wider Greek society.

With the landing of Allied forces in Thessaloniki with Venizelos' permission and the unconditional surrender by the King of a military fort in Macedonia to German-Bulgarian forces, the disagreement of the two men started to take the form of civil war. In August 1916, followers of Venizelos set up a provisional state in Northern Greece with Entente support with the aim of reclaiming the lost regions in Macedonia, effectively splitting Greece into two entities.

After intense diplomatic negotiations and an armed confrontation in Athens between Entente and royalist forces (an incident known as Noemvriana) the king abdicated, and his second son Alexander took his place. Venizelos returned to Athens on 29 May 1917 and Greece, now unified, officially joined the war on the side of the Allies, emerging victorious and securing new territory by the Treaty of Sèvres.

Treaty of Lausanne (1923)[edit]

Greek ethnographic map of south-eastern Balkans before the population exchanges, 1918

The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) put an end to the traditional Greek policy of the "Great Idea". This allowed the Greek governments of the inter-war years to turn their attention to the country's domestic affairs and to the building of the modern Greek state. The population exchanges among Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria after 1923 resulted in the replacement by Greek refugees from Asia Minor of most of the Slavic and Turkish elements in Macedonia.

Macedonia experienced a radical demographic transformation with the arrival of the Greek refugees; the Greeks, who had been the 43% in 1913,[citation needed] were estimated to constitute 89% of the population of Macedonia by 1928.

Bulgarian relations with Yugoslavia (before 1929 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) remained strained over the Macedonian question. Frontier incidents were frequent, as were Yugoslav charges against Bulgaria for fostering the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), a nationalist group that used violence, in Yugoslavia. Macedonian agitation against Serbian rule culminated (1934) in the assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia by a Macedonian nationalist at Marseilles.

World War II[edit]

Bulgarian occupation zone in Greece (in green) during World War II

In World War II Thrace and eastern Macedonia were occupied (1941–44) by Bulgaria, which sided with the Axis Powers. The Bulgarian government maintained a course of military passivity until 20 April 1941, when German troops crushed Greece and Yugoslavia. In April 1941, the Bulgarian Army entered the Aegean region, hoping for gaining an Aegean Sea outlet in Thrace and Eastern Macedonia, and occupied a territory between the river Struma and a line of demarcation running through Alexandroupoli and Svilengrad west of Evros with the cities of Alexandroupoli (Дедеагач, Dedeagach), Komotini (Гюмюрджина, Gyumyurdzhina), Serres (Сяр, Syar), Xanthi (Ксанти), Drama (Драма) and Kavala (Кавала) and the islands of Thasos and Samothrace.

The so-called "Roman Legion" a collaborationist organization consisting of a few Vlachs supported the Italian occupation army between 1941-1943 in Thessaly, Pindus mountain and part of Epirus. The Slavic-Macedonian National Liberation Front or SNOF was a major force in Greek Macedonia.

The Bulgarian armistice treaty of 1944 restored the pre-war boundaries, which were confirmed in the peace treaty of 1947. The Yugoslav constitution of 1946 declared Yugoslav Macedonia an autonomous unit and a federal state under the name Socialist Republic of Macedonia. The South Slavic people that formed the majority of the people in the new federal state, were recognized as a separate nationality, as Macedonians (ethnic group). The long lasting struggle of national recognition was given only from Yugoslavia, one of the four countries that had territories in the geographical region of Macedonia. In the following years, Albania granted the ethnic Macedonian minority rights and freedom, while Greece and Bulgaria, which saw Yugoslavia's action with suspicion and as an attempt to foster Yugoslav influence in the region of Macedonia, denied any rights to their Slavic-speaking minorities that have been associated with the Yugoslav Macedonia, and thus, kept them under a heavy assimilation processes. The struggle for human rights and freedom of the ethnic Macedonian people still continues.

Greek Civil War[edit]

Much of the Greek Civil War was fought in Macedonia. The Communist Party of Greece or KKE and the Democratic Army of Greece or DSE were heavily established in Macedonia. The National Liberation Front was established by Slavic speakers who associate themselves with Yugoslavia who resided in Greece, to assist with the war effort, in return for minority status recognition and rights. However, when the DSE lost the Greek Civil War thousands of people who fought for the Communist side fled Greece, taking thousands of ethnic Macedonian children from the Greek region of Macedonia with them.[1]

Tension over the region of Macedonia continued in the early postwar years. During the Greek Civil War there was much conflict between Greece and Yugoslavia over Macedonia, and the breach between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria after 1948 helped to make the Macedonian question explosive. However, with the settlement of the civil war and with the easing of Yugoslav-Bulgarian relations after 1962, tension over Macedonia was reduced. A 1982 amnesty law stated "Free to return to Greece are all Greeks by Genus who during the civil war of 1946-1949 and because of it have fled abroad as political refugees, despite that Greek citizenship has been taken away from them." had the right as Greeks, to take back their Greek citizenship and return, including the Macedonian Greeks, but excluding those who identified as non-Greeks who are mainly ethnic Macedonians.[2] In 1990, the Socialist Republic of Macedonia elected its first non-Communist government and the following year declared its independence as the "Republic of Macedonia", sparking a dispute over the name Macedonia with neighbouring Greece.

Macedonia today[edit]

Today Macedonia (Greek: Μακεδονία, Makedonia) is Greece's largest geographical region and it occupies the northern part of the country.

Since the administrative reform of 1987,[3] the region is subdivided into three Regions:

The geographical region of Macedonia also includes the male-only autonomous monastic republic of Mount Athos.

See also[edit]

The Macedonia region imposed on modern borders.


  1. ^ Simpson, Neil (1994). Macedonia Its Disputed History. Victoria: Aristoc Press, 101,102 & 91. ISBN 0-646-20462-9
  2. ^ Human Rights Watch, Helsinki (1994). Denying Ethnic Identity; The Macedonians Of Greece. New York: Human Rights Watch. ISBN 1-56432-132-0. 
  3. ^ Π.Δ. 51/87 “Καθορισμός των Περιφερειών της Χώρας για το σχεδιασμό κ.λ.π. της Περιφερειακής Ανάπτυξης” (Determination of the Peripheries of the Country for the planning etc. of the development of the peripheries, Efimeris tis Kyverniseos ΦΕΚ A 26/06.03.1987

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